December 1, 2023

Seeing More: Encountering Jesus during Mass and Adoration

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The Catholic Culturist

Dr. Staudt

What do we see at Mass? Often enough, we encounter a mundane vision of outdated architecture, some empty pews, those who made it there struggling to pay attention, and liturgical gestures that have grown overly familiar. If only we could look deeper, we would see Calvary opening before us, we would see Christ offering His flesh and blood at the Last Supper, a myriad of angels and saints joining us, and an open road leading us to the heavenly Jerusalem. It takes faith to grasp this and without it, it’s no surprise why many people feel like they don’t need to bother showing up. They only see the out-side, the shell of our sacramental ritual that lacks life without access to what lies hidden within.

Attending Mass is the most important thing that we do each week. At the Mass, the great wedding feast of the lamb, the bridegroom waits for His bride to come, offering an incomprehensible gift: His entire self — body, blood, soul, and divinity. If we truly understood what it was, then how could anyone even consider refusing this invitation? We need to know that Jesus treasures of each one of us as His invited bride.

He doesn’t just think of His Church as an anonymous whole, because the Church is His own body, mystically composed of all the baptized. Every Sunday He waits for you, knowing the gift He wants to give you. He knows exactly what you need, what you will bring to Mass — all of the burdens, fears, expectations, and hopes. He has an answer for them all and desires to walk through them with us, not just from the outside but from within.

Every Mass offers an invitation to find in Jesus the one thing that matters most and which gives meaning to every-thing else. As we enter the church, we set aside earthly cares to join the heavenly worship of the cherubim, not simply as an escape but to receive the impetus to reenter the world carrying the divine presence within us. Jesus makes us into His tabernacle, and the more He changes us the more He can change the world through us. Leaving Mass should not end our communion with Jesus but rather anchor it. Communion provides a foundation for the entire Christian life, guiding everything that we do, which, in turn, should lead us back to this encounter each Sunday as our inner life. In this source and summit, we can find constant refreshment for the Christian life.

Just as Jesus waits for us on Sunday, calling us to communion with Him at Mass, so He also invites us to visit Him during the week. Our Eucharistic communion should extend beyond one hour on Sunday. Jesus wants us to live a Eucharistic life, abiding in His presence through prayer.

When we return to Jesus in the tabernacle for prayer, it continues the encounter we have with Him at Mass and anticipates and prepares for the next Mass. The practice of adoration follows naturally from intimacy with Jesus in communion. When we grow in friendship and love with Him, we seek Him out to spend more time with Him. The Church re-serves the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist in the tabernacle in church precisely for this reason, as a place of refuge where we can find Jesus at any time. Adoration helps us to recognize God’s presence, greatness, and our great need for Him that teaches us always to rely on Him. Adoration, in this sense, is a continual disposition of honor and respect toward Jesus, one that leads us to seek Him out to spend time with Him. This time opens the door to Jesus’s lordship over our lives. It becomes the stability of our lives that sustains us each day and helps us to take up our crosses.

Our Eucharistic revival will be successful if it strengthens faith in Jesus’s presence so that we begin to live a life more centered on our communion with Him. Outward actions serve to strengthen faith, as people need to see that we believe Jesus is truly present there. Our reverence at Mass, our attention to Him in adoration and benediction all point to the presence of the world’s true king. If people walk into our parishes and recognize our devotion to Jesus’s presence, it may call them to look more deeply to recognize the Lord’s presence there too and to hear His invitation to deeper communion with Him. Like John, when Peter didn’t recognize Jesus on the shore, we need to proclaim: “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7).

For more on the connection between Mass and adoration, see chapter 7 of my book, How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization.

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